While still a great game, Hitman: Absolution often forgets its stronger points and favors its weaker ones.
Story: The story starts off interesting enough, but it tanks as soon as you meet the main villain. IO went for a sort of grindhouse Tarentino feel, but it simply doesn't work. Every character is written as unpleasant and annoying as a substitute for being interesting or three-dimensional. The only likeable character is 47, and that's simply because he's the one who talks the least. It's kind of cool to see Agent 47 invest emotionally in Victoria, seeing himself in her and being able to personally relate to what she's gone through, but she disappears almost immediately and this dynamic is never developed any further. Much like the assassinations, IO had something interesting here, but for whatever reason refused to focus on it.
Graphics/Sound: Both of these are wonderful. The graphics are crisp and pleasing to the eye, with everything from rain, decaying structures, and some of the largest crowds you've ever seen all being rendered in great detail without hardly a hitch in performance. The art direction really gives off the atmosphere that 47 has delved into the lowest pits humanity has to offer. The sounds design is also top notch, going hand in hand with the art direction to really sell you on the world that you're in. NPC dialogue is well written (minus the main villains') with plenty of humor to lighten up the often depressing atmosphere being given off. While Jesper Kyd is missed, the music still does it's job and is quite good.
Contracts: Contracts mode really saves this game. At first I was skeptical, thinking that, without a level editor, the system would be too simple to have the variety needed to keep me going. However, this is not the case. You'd be surprised at the amount of possibilities available through this mode. And, since you must play the contract to make the contract, you know there will be no impossible levels typically found in most games with user-generated content. The thing that makes Contracts so good though is that it's centered around what the game should be about: assassinations. It's what you buy the game for, and with this mode there are now an endless number of them to be done in an endless number of ways; and it proves that you don't need tacked-on PvP multiplayer to add replayability.
On the story mode alone, I'd probably give this game a 7-7.5. Contracts, however, bumps it up to an 8 and really makes the game. Diehard Hitman fans will be dissapointed that there aren't as many assassinations in this game as previous titles, but if you can set that aside, Hitman: Absolution is still a great game with great gameplay and tons of replay value.